You always need a bit of a push, especially to do the right thing. In a country that still recalls underhand snip-and-tuck tactics used during the Emergency, the word ‘vasectomy’ does not get the Indian menfolk queuing up in their knotted pyjamas with glee. Which is why Manish Shrivastava, the Collector of Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh, deserves our unalloyed applause for making a vasa deferentia in our approach to sterilisation. For Mr Shrivastava — unlike Youth Congress leaders of the hoary 70s — understands the power of cajolement. And most importantly he is a master of localised knowledge.
The region of Chambal, where Mr Shrivastava has launched his radical project, has a relationship with guns the way Benares has a relationship with God. In other words, this legendary ‘dacoit’ territory sees guns not only as a utilitarian weapon against the ‘bad guys’ — or, for that matter, the ‘not-so-bad guys’ if you’re a dacoit yourself — but as an extension of masculine pride, a trigger-attached sign of alpha malehood. Mr Shrivastava’s genius was to connect the perceived ‘shortcomings’ of undergoing a vasectomy with the ‘longcomings’ of owning a gun. Thus, his brilliant gun licence-for-sterilisation project.
And it’s already a great success in the district that boasts of 11,000 licensed arms in a population of 1.4 million. To take the fear out of vasectomy is a success story enough. But to make it an aspirational rite of passage by linking gun control to birth control is sheer genius. Now to blow the brains out of that nasty piece of work: our runaway population.